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Muse on AllenMuse on Allen offers a sur­pris­ing out­post of fine din­ing in a street bet­ter known for BYOs and RTDs. It also has a com­pre­hens­ive cock­tail list, so we began with a pass­able whis­key sour and Sazer­ac before tack­ling the menu.

Sampling a rep­res­ent­at­ive selec­tion of dishes between two of us looked a daunt­ing assign­ment, until we saw the ‘Taste of Muse’, which offered small bites of most of the starters. So we ordered that to begin with, and the hal­loumi entrée, because, well, because it’s halloumi.

Before that arrived, the charm­ingly incom­pre­hens­ible French waiter brought us an amuse bouche of cold spiced car­rot soup in shot glasses, which was a for­tu­it­ous match for the Rock­burn Spit­fire Gewürztram­iner we had selec­ted. The present­a­tion of the tast­ing plat­ter was some­where between min­im­al­ist and rus­tic, with small morsels arranged on a wooden slab. The ceviche tasted like fish without being fishy, if that makes sense, and the crispy squid had a firm but not rub­bery tex­ture. The beef tar­tar was so mild it threatened to be over­whelmed by the accom­pa­ny­ing avo­cado mousse, but the same couldn’t be said for the pork ril­letes or the chick­en pâté. The former was win­ningly assert­ive; the lat­ter as smooth and light as para­chute silk.

Grilled hal­loumi was served with cubes of peach, sweet­corn purée, and pretty pickled Chiog­gia beets. We had sus­pec­ted that these would be too mild for hal­loumi, which is nor­mally paired with more piquant accom­pani­ments such as cit­rus and mint, but the com­bin­a­tion proved to be subtly satisfying.

And then it was time for meat. The lamb dish involved three dif­fer­ent cuts: saddle, ten­der­loin and braised cheeks, and as well as the usu­al accom­plices (min­ted peas and fond­ant potato) it was served in ham hock jus. This was mostly tasty if unspec­tac­u­lar, though the cheeks were glor­i­ously sticky little nug­gets. Angus beef ribeye was also a fairly safe choice, though the savoury oyster mush­room jus gave it a lift, and cashew nut beignets made a bold tex­tur­al con­trast. Servings were gen­er­ous enough that we couldn’t make much of a dent in our fries, and we barely touched our fen­nel remoulade, but that may be because it was ined­ibly salty, even to my taste.

We fin­ished with ice creams and sorbets, which were pleas­ant if for­get­table, and the only detail that stuck in my memory was that they were served on a bed of chocol­atey crumbs. ‘Pleas­ant if for­get­table’ would be a fair descrip­tion of the decor, too: dark wood, exposed brick, a min­im­al­ist room divider; in oth­er words, a for­mula for urb­an chic circa 1998. Giv­en a lively atmo­sphere, this wouldn’t have mattered, but with only one oth­er couple in the room, it felt uncom­fort­ably bare.



Address: 16 Allen Street, Te Aro

Phone: 04 384 1181

Cost: Entrées $17–19; mains $36–38

Open: Tue–Sat 5:30pm–late

Food: Mod­ern New Zealand

Drink: Tuatara APA $10; Waipara Hills Gewürztram­iner $11/glass, $45/bottle[/warning]



April Café

In sum­mer I often find it per­verse to drink pip­ing-hot cof­fee, but ask­ing for an iced cof­fee usu­ally res­ults in the sort of frothy lactose-fest that looks like it should have spark­lers in it. A few cof­fee houses have star­ted offer­ing cold brew, but True Brew serves noth­ing but. Not only is it more refresh­ing, but the slow, cold steep­ing makes for lower acids and a fresh­er expres­sion of the fruit over­tones in the single-ori­gin beans. You can take bottles away, or sip at the bar of this sur­pris­ingly sunny nook up in an obscure corner of the Grand Arcade.

Address: 16 Wil­lis Street, Wel­ling­ton Central

Phone: 021 285 2727

Open: Wed–Sat 8am–4pm[/info]


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